Russia starts nationwide show of force

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Russia starts nationwide show of force
VLADIVOSTOK, RUSSIA - NOVEMBER 13: Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting on shipbuilding on November 13, 2014 in Vladivostok, Russia. Putin is on a two-day trip on the way to the G20 Leaders Summit in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin , left, and Vyacheslav Fetisov, lawmaker and former Soviet and NHL ice hockey star, second left, watch an ice hockey game at the Fetisov Arena at the Russian Far Eastern port of Vladivostok on Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, Presidential Press Service)
The front page of the local newspaper calls on Russia's President Vladimir Putin to apologise as relations between Australia and Australia hit an all time low after the downing of Flight MH17 in Ukraine, at the G20 Leader's Summit in Brisbane on November 14, 2014. AFP PHOTO/William West (Photo credit should read WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)
Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, pauses during a global business leaders summit at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on Friday, May 23, 2014. SPIEF is an annual international conference dedicated to economic and business issues which takes place at the Lenexpo exhibition center May 22-24. Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin, flanked by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, left, and Federal Security Service Chief Alexander Bortnikov, right, arrives on a boat after inspecting battleships during a navy parade marking the Victory Day in Sevastopol, Crimea, Friday, May 9, 2014. Putin extolled the return of Crimea to Russia before tens of thousands Friday during his first trip to Black Sea peninsula since its annexation. The triumphant visit was quickly condemned by Ukraine and NATO. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a Victory Day Parade, which commemorates the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany, in Red Square, with St. Basil Cathedral in the background, in Moscow, Russia, Friday, May 9, 2014. Putin made no reference to the situation in Ukraine when he opened Friday's parade, focusing on the historic importance of the victory over Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, wearing ribbons symbolizing the Soviet victory in WWII, arrive to attend the Victory Day Parade, which commemorates the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany, in Moscow, Russia, Friday, May 9, 2014. Russia marks the Victory Day on May 9 holding a military parade in Red Square in Moscow. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Russian President Vladimir Putin heads to speak at a parade marking the Victory Day in Sevastopol, Crimea, Friday, May 9, 2014. Putin extolled the return of Crimea to Russia before tens of thousands Friday during his first trip to Black Sea peninsula since its annexation. The triumphant visit was quickly condemned by Ukraine and NATO. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a navy parade marking the Victory Day in Sevastopol, Crimea, Friday, May 9, 2014. Putin extolled the return of Crimea to Russia before tens of thousands Friday during his first trip to Black Sea peninsula since its annexation. The triumphant visit was quickly condemned by Ukraine and NATO. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Russian President Vladimir Putin heads to speak at a navy parade marking the Victory Day in Sevastopol, Crimea, Friday, May 9, 2014. Putin extolled the return of Crimea to Russia before tens of thousands Friday during his first trip to Black Sea peninsula since its annexation. The triumphant visit was quickly condemned by Ukraine and NATO. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives on a boat after inspecting battleships during a navy parade marking the Victory Day in Sevastopol, Crimea, Friday, May 9, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin extolled the return of Crimea to Russia before tens of thousands Friday during his first trip to Black Sea peninsula since its annexation. The triumphant visit was quickly condemned by Ukraine and NATO. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a navy parade marking the Victory Day in Sevastopol, Crimea, Friday, May 9, 2014. Crimea, which hosts a major Russian Black Sea Fleet base, is set to hold a massive navy parade in the port of Sevastopol. Putin extolled the return of Crimea to Russia before tens of thousands Friday during his first trip to Black Sea peninsula since its annexation. The triumphant visit was quickly condemned by Ukraine and NATO. (AP Photo / Ivan Sekretarev)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, wearing ribbons symbolizing the Soviet victory in WWII, arrive to attend the Victory Day Parade, which commemorates the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany in Moscow, Russia, Friday, May 9, 2014. Thousands of Russian troops march on Red Square in the annual Victory Day parade in a proud display of the nation's military might amid escalating tensions over Ukraine. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev arrive to attend a Victory Day parade, which commemorates the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany, in Moscow, Russia, Friday, May 9, 2014. Russia marked the Victory Day on May 9 holding a military parade at Red Square in Moscow. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev attend a Victory Day parade, which commemorates the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany, at Red Square in Moscow, Russia, Friday, May 9, 2014. Russia marked the Victory Day on May 9 holding a military parade at Red Square. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, back, speaks at a meeting of the leaders of the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, May 8, 2014. At right is Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon. (AP Photo/Sergei Karpukhin, Pool)
Russian President Vladimir Putin oversees a military exercise involving Russian nuclear forces in Defense Ministry's situation room outside Moscow, Thursday, May 8, 2014. President Vladimir Putin on Thursday oversaw a military exercise involving Russia's nuclear forces amid escalating tensions over Ukraine. Putin said that the maneuvers involved the military across the entire Russian territory, including the nation's nuclear forces. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to Valery Gerasimov, chief of Russian military's General Staff, right, as he attends a military exercise involving Russia’s nuclear forces, at an undisclosed location outside Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, May 8, 2014. Putin, speaking from the Defense Ministry’s headquarters where he oversaw the exercise along with leaders of several ex-Soviet nations which are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, said that the maneuvers involved the military across the entire Russian territory, including the nation’s nuclear forces. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, centre, attends a meeting of the leaders of the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, May 8, 2014. At right is Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon. (AP Photo/Sergei Karpukhin, Pool)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko enter a hall for bilateral talks after a meeting of the leaders of the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, May 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Karpukhin, Pool)
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his visit to the Crimean port of Sevastopol on May 9, 2014. Putin's visit to Crimea, which was annexed by Moscow in March, is a 'flagrant violation' of Ukraine's sovereignty, authorities in Kiev said today.AFP PHOTO/ YURI KADOBNOV (Photo credit should read YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his visit to the Crimean port of Sevastopol on May 9, 2014. Putin's visit to Crimea, which was annexed by Moscow in March, is a 'flagrant violation' of Ukraine's sovereignty, authorities in Kiev said today.AFP PHOTO/ YURI KADOBNOV (Photo credit should read YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Ukrainian security forces guard a checkpoint outside the southern city of Mykolayiv on May 9, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin took a victory lap in his first visit to Crimea since its annexation by Russia, as fighting in eastern Ukraine left 21 dead just days ahead of a separatist vote. AFP PHOTO/ ALEXEY KRAVTSOV (Photo credit should read ALEXEY KRAVTSOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Ukrainian security forces guard a checkpoint outside the southern city of Mykolayiv on May 9, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin took a victory lap in his first visit to Crimea since its annexation by Russia, as fighting in eastern Ukraine left 21 dead just days ahead of a separatist vote. AFP PHOTO/ ALEXEY KRAVTSOV (Photo credit should read ALEXEY KRAVTSOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Ukrainian security forces guard a checkpoint outside the southern city of Mykolayiv on May 9, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin took a victory lap in his first visit to Crimea since its annexation by Russia, as fighting in eastern Ukraine left 21 dead just days ahead of a separatist vote. AFP PHOTO/ ALEXEY KRAVTSOV (Photo credit should read ALEXEY KRAVTSOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Armed pro-Russia militiants take part in a rally marking Victory Day in eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on May 9, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin took a victory lap in his first visit to Crimea since its annexation by Russia, as fighting in eastern Ukraine left 21 dead just days ahead of a separatist vote. AFP PHOTO/ ALEXANDER KHUDOTEPLY (Photo credit should read Alexander KHUDOTEPLY/AFP/Getty Images)
Armed pro-Russia militiants take part in a rally marking Victory Day in eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on May 9, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin took a victory lap in his first visit to Crimea since its annexation by Russia, as fighting in eastern Ukraine left 21 dead just days ahead of a separatist vote. AFP PHOTO/ ALEXANDER KHUDOTEPLY (Photo credit should read Alexander KHUDOTEPLY/AFP/Getty Images)
Armed pro-Russia militiants take part in a rally marking Victory Day in eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on May 9, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin took a victory lap in his first visit to Crimea since its annexation by Russia, as fighting in eastern Ukraine left 21 dead just days ahead of a separatist vote. AFP PHOTO/ ALEXANDER KHUDOTEPLY (Photo credit should read Alexander KHUDOTEPLY/AFP/Getty Images)
A man holds pictures of dead relatives during a Victory Day ceremony at the Unknown Sailor Memorial in the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa on May 9, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin took a victory lap in his first visit to Crimea since its annexation by Russia, as fighting in eastern Ukraine left at least 21 dead just days ahead of a separatist vote. AFP PHOTO/ ANATOLII STEPANOV (Photo credit should read ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a media meeting organized by the Russian People's Front in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has mocked the Internet as a CIA project and pledged to protect Russia’s interest in the online industry. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)
Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a meeting of Russia's People's Front in St.Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Ukrainian government troops moved against pro-Russia forces in the east of the country on Thursday and killed at least two of them in clashes at checkpoints manned by the insurgents, the government and insurgents said. Russian President Vladimir Putin decried what he described as a "punitive operation." (AP Photo/RIA Novosti Kremlin, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Royal Dutch Shell's CEO Ben Van Beurden in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Friday, April 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Maxim Shipenkov, Pool)
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Security Council meeting in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Friday, April 18, 2014. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, Presidential Press Service)
CAPTION CORRECTS THE EVENT Russian President Vladimir Putin enters a hall for a video call with the Prirazlomnaya arctic oil platform marking the launch of production in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Friday, April 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Maxim Shipenkov, Pool)
Russian President Vladimir Putin leaves after a video call with the Prirazlomnaya arctic oil platform marking the launch of production in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Friday, April 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Maxim Shipenkov)
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a video call with the Prirazlomnaya arctic oil platform marking the launch of production in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Friday, April 18, 2014. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, Presidential Press Service)
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to the media after a nationally televised question-and-answer session in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, April 17, 2014. President Vladimir Putin on Thursday rejected claims that Russian special forces are fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine, but recognized for the first time that the troops in unmarked uniforms who had overtaken Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula before its annexation by Moscow were Russian soldiers. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, foreground, leaves after a nationally televised question-and-answer session in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, April 17, 2014. At left is Head of Russian Television Channel One Konstantin Ernst. President Vladimir Putin on Thursday rejected claims that Russian special forces are fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine, but recognized for the first time that the troops in unmarked uniforms who had overtaken Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula before its annexation by Moscow were Russian soldiers. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a nationally televised question-and-answer session in Moscow, Thursday, April 17, 2014. President Vladimir Putin on Thursday rejected claims that Russian special forces are fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine, but recognized for the first time that the troops in unmarked uniforms who had overtaken Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula before its annexation by Moscow were Russian soldiers. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of a board of trustees of the Russian Geographical Society in a library of Moscow State University in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, April 15, 2014. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, Presidential Press Service)
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Supreme Court Chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Thursday, April 3, 2014. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, Presidential Press Service)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands at the presentation ceremony of the top military brass in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Friday, March 28, 2014. Russia's president says Ukraine could regain some arms and equipment of military units in Crimea that did not switch their loyalty to Russia. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, Presidential Press Service)
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Federation Council members in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Thursday, March 27, 2014. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)
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(Reuters) - More than 45,000 Russian troops as well as war planes and submarines started military exercises across much of the country on Monday in one of the Kremlin's biggest shows of force since its ties with the West plunged to Cold War-lows.

President Vladimir Putin called the Navy's Northern Fleet to full combat readiness in exercises in Russia's Arctic North apparently aimed at dwarfing military drills in neighboring Norway, a NATO member.

"New challenges and threats to military security require the armed forces to further boost their military capabilities. Special attention must be paid to newly created strategic formations in the north," Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said, quoted by RIA news agency.

Shoigu said the order came from Putin, who has promised to spend more than 21 trillion rubles ($340 billion) by the end of the decade to overhaul Russia's fighting forces.

Putin made his first public appearance since March 5 on Monday, an absence from view that had fueled feverish speculation over his health as well as his grip on power. He was meeting Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev at the Constantine Palace outside Russia's second city of St. Petersburg.

Norway is currently holding its "Joint Viking" drills involving 5,000 troops in Finnmark county, which borders Russia in the resource-rich Arctic circle where both countries are vying for influence.

Russia's drills would include nearly 40,000 servicemen, 41 warships and 15 submarines, RIA reported.

Tensions between Russia and Europe worsened last year, leading eight northern European nations to promise to boost cooperation to counter an increase in Moscow's military activity.

NATO made new allegations last week that Russia was arming separatists in east Ukraine, where more than 6,000 people have been killed in nearly a year of fighting.

The West and Kiev accuse Russia of supplying arms and soldiers to support the pro-Russian separatists. Moscow denies the claims.

NATO says it counted more than 100 intercepts of Russian planes into members' airspace last year, three times more than in 2013. The intercepts have forced civilian planes to change their courses and Britain scrambled Typhoon interceptor planes after two long-range bombers flew over the English Channel.

Norway said its military drills had been planned before the Ukraine crisis.

"However, the current security situation in Europe shows that the exercise is more relevant than ever," Lieutenant General Haga Lunde said in a statement.

The Russian exercises are due to last for much of the week during which Russia will celebrate its annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, carried out with the help of special forces.

Other drills involved 5,000 troops in Russia's eastern military district, while another exercise included another 500 troops from Russia's troubled North Caucasus region of Chechnya, the site of two separatist wars, wires reported.

The exercises were meant to focus on fighting Islamist insurgents, whose movement to create a Muslim state has spread across the predominantly Muslim North Caucasus, fueled by religion and anger at local abuse of power.

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